Singing eggplant and peach emojis caution young people about sending nudes

Who: Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT), with DDB Canada for strategy, creative and media; Little Giant for animation; and TA2 for music.

What: “Butt Out, Creeps,” a new campaign that aims to combat an alarming increase in “sextortion,” where people are urged to send nude pictures of themselves, and are subsequently extorted for money with threats of publicly sharing the images.

When & Where: The eight-week campaign debuted early last month, running on channels where young people tend to congregate, such as Snap, TikTok, and YouTube, as well as online gaming channels. There’s also a poster campaign, and a dedicated online resource,

Why: According to ALERT, there were nearly 3,000 child exploitation cases reported in Alberta in 2022, and more than one in 10 kids are sexually victimized before they turn 18. Online child sexual exploitation offences in the province have increased by more than 185% in the past five years.

ALERT, a law enforcement unit tackling serious and organized crime, was having difficulty breaking through with teens about the dangers of sharing nude pictures online. The age range most affected (14-17) didn’t take in-school presentations seriously, leading ALERT to seek a new way to reach them while avoiding the sombre and heavy-handed approach characteristic of law enforcement.

How: The campaign is anchored by videos featuring singing eggplant and peach emojis, which are commonly used to represent sexual organs in sexting.

Two videos, “Don’t Be a Wang” and “Never Share Nudes,” feature the emojis singing earworms that urge people to never send nudes and providing advice about how they should respond to solicitations for pictures. “If someone you know asks you for a nude, tell someone you trust, then ghost that weird dude,” sings the peach emoji, for example.

“When it comes to teens, TikTok culture is obviously huge,” said DDB Canada’s executive creative director, Rica Eckersley. “Working with Little Giant for animation and TA2 for music, we created a campaign designed to authentically live in that space. We tackled a serious subject by not taking ourselves so seriously, and it worked. These songs will live in my head forever.”

Early success: According to DDB’s group account director Andrew Moschuk, the campaign has garnered more than five million impressions since going live, generating more than 35,000 visits to the landing page, with more than 7% of traffic returning for additional information. The site’s “Get Help Now” button is receiving about 100 clicks per week.

And we quote: “The threat of sextortion is more prevalent than ever. It’s inside our homes and on our devices. We needed a memorable campaign that connected with kids on a level they would understand.” — Supt. Marc Cochlin, chief executive officer, ALERT

Chris Powell